Will work for rent: Golden Bear asks city to extend current deal
Since taking over the former youth centre across from Pioneer Park three years ago, the Rossland Child Care Society has been playing its own game of extreme makeover, all the while offering a helping hand in raising our kids. In hopes of additional recognition for their work, the Rossland Child Care Society came before council this week asking the City to waive the rent on the city-owned facility Golden Bear operates from.
When they took the space over, Golden Bear’s current home was a rundown building in need of some serious TLC. In an effort to transform the space into what it is now, over $170,000 was put into capital improvements. $59,000 was put in initially followed later by a further $114,000 in improvements going into mould remediation, new plumbing, central air, fencing, landscaping, a new roof, drywall, lighting, flooring, trees and a new fire alarm system. As part of the child care society’s deal with the City, their rent of $500 per month was waived for the first three years of their five year lease on the property in recognition of the first $59,000 in improvements made to the property.
“The building was in tough shape,” explained Golden Bear’s Rebecca Sterling. “We’ve improved the aesthetics of it as it looked very run down. For our purposes at that time it didn’t meet any of the building codes and things like that. It was substandard for our purpose. In order to have the capacity that we currently have we had to put the fire alarm system and things like that in. From a health perspective, especially with small children, it had to be a healthy building as well and there had been a lot of mould in there.”
Since that first deal, Golden Bear has continued working on the building with a second injection of $114,000. Seeking to continue their cooperative arrangement with the City of Rossland, Sterling and Catherine Mahoney came before council asking that the city continue to waive their rent in lieu of capital improvements on the building for the next two years of their lease as well.
“We continue to make significant investment in city property. The building is in much better shape than previously. Too attract and retain young families to our neighbourhood, early childhood education is essential. As the only licensed non-profit centre in Rossland, we request rent waiver until the end of our lease in 2013.”
If Golden Bear is able to continue having their rent waived in lieu, they would put that money towards addressing what has been one of the centre’s biggest challenges: finding and retaining excellent and qualified staff.
“We have to pay good wages to recruit and retain properly-qualified staff,” noted Mahoney. “It has been very difficult to do so. We have been getting creative and have even gone so far as to bring people in from New Zealand on two year working visas and recruiting people from all over. We recruited Rebecca from Ontario. “
Should the group not have to pay the $500 monthly rent, they’ll use it to put towards a benefits package for their staff to assist in retaining their seven current employees.
“We have the best staff I could have ever asked for and they deserve to be remunerated properly,” added Sterling.
Council, as per usual process, will address the delegations concerns and request at their next council meeting on October 18th.
One question posed to the delegation was if they wouldbe interested in getting potentially relocating to a Neighbourhoods of Learning centre.
“We’re open to the Neighbourhoods of Learning concept,” explained Sterling. “As long as we’re in this building, however, we’ll continue to maintain it. If it becomes something where it makes sense for the community to offer our services with NOL, we would certainly be a part of that and turn our energy towards that. At which point we turn the building over to the city in much better shape than we got it. It has the mould removed, improved windows, a new roof, plumbing, a lot of things it didn’t have before. For the present we would like to continue to be a partner with the city.”
If the recent results of the UBC study into child vulnerability can be used as a reference, then those behind Golden Bear feel they have been doing an exceptional job looking after their charges (that study found Rossland to be the best in the province with a 0% vulnerability rate among kindergarten aged children).
“It’s a great result. We feel that we’ve played a role in that because a god number of those children that would have been part of that study had attended Golden Bear,” added Sterling. “The city has helped us in that in many ways and it has been greatly appreciated. Right now we’re just asking not that they be mindful of carrying that on.”